I've been to Amsterdam a lot of times over the years. My first experiences were hit and miss... The city centre and red light district are horrible. The smell of weed pouring into the street and dead eyed women gyrating in windows do not inspire me to anything much more than tears.
I'm not anti drugs but the idea of getting fucked in a foriegn city famous for its bikes, trams, and canals with woefully inadquate edge protection just doesn't seem that sensible. Once you get out of the city centre life calms down a bit.
Jordaan is a neighborhood in the west; it starts officially when you get over the Prinsengraacht and stops on Marnixstraat. If you want to experience real Dutch lifestyle without the stank of weed everywhere you'll do worse than spending some time here.
The weather in February unsurprisingly in Amsterdam is grim. The wind and rain drive you inside and luckily that is where the beer is!
The streets around Noorderkerk are filled with great little pubs. Cafe Tabac is gorgeous and kind of epitomises what day time drinking should be. A warm reception, cheery service, funky music, and a cosy atmosphere.
If your experience of Amsterdam is limited to the centre you'll have a very different idea of what it means to enjoy the city. Each and every brown cafe selling the same selection of frozen bitterballen, kaas tengels that taste like dairylea wrapped in pastry, and cheese toasties made from Old Amsterdam cheese and mystery ham...
Rembrandt Square at night is rammed with tourists and it makes me sad that they might not see what simple pleasure it is to roll from street to street in the Jordaan.
Finch is a trendy bar on the Noordermarkt with really quirky pictures on the walls and a cool crowd. Wander a little further from here towards Westerstraat and you'll find a side street full of temptation.
Rammed with great food places; keep an eye for pintxos at La Oliva, great italian at Burger's Patio, and solid pizza from La Perla. There are too many bars to list really but keep an eye out for any that look like someone's front room and you'll generally be ok.
The dutch have a word for their favourite types of bar and that's gezillig. It sort of means cosy; the sort of place you can lose an afternoon drinking and chatting. That's what I love about Amsterdam and why I keep going back.
If you have to head back to the centre to get to bed you should probably grab yourself a hot dog on the way. The vans dotted around can be surprisingly good...